Jump to accessibility statement Skip to content

Caitlyn McAdam - my university experience

Home / Student experience / Discover Sunderland blog / Arts and Creative Industries / Caitlyn McAdam - my university experience

Meet Caitlyn McAdam, current BA (Hons) Fashion Journalism student, blogger and digital ambassador for the University of Sunderland. Over on her YouTube channel, Caitlyn Hearts, Caitlyn shares lifestyle, beauty and fashion tips, and in summer 2020 decided to create a video sharing her university experience and advice with budding fashion journalists.

Applying to university

Caitlyn studied English Language, English Literature, Media Studies and Photography at A Level, and was hoping she could find a degree course that combined her love of fashion and media to study at university. When it came to her university choices, she applied to Northumbria University in Newcastle, Nottingham Trent University, University of the Arts London: Central Saint Martin’s, and the University of Sunderland. At first, she was keen to move away and get the full university experience of living in student halls, but then her mindset changed and she knew she wanted to stay at home during her studies so she could be near her family and friends. Choosing where you want to study is an important decision, so make sure you choose somewhere you feel comfortable, whether that’s moving away to become more independent or staying at home. For Caitlyn, who lives in Newcastle, staying at home meant her final two university choices became Northumbria and Sunderland.

So, what made Caitlyn decide to study at Sunderland? After an interview at Northumbria, she received a conditional offer, which meant she needed to achieve specific grades or UCAS Tariff points for entry onto the course. Tutors at Sunderland were so impressed by her at interview that they made her an unconditional offer, which meant that no matter what, she would have a place guaranteed for her, should she want it. On results day Caitlyn just missed out on the grades she needed for entry onto Northumbria’s course, and therefore took up her place at Sunderland. However, Caitlyn is a big believer in everything happening for a reason and is pleased her journey took her to Sunderland to study BA (Hons) Fashion Journalism, a course she loves.

About the course

BA (Hons) Fashion Journalism is a three-year course and the modules on offer include Style Icons and Subcultures, Essential Media Law and Regulation, Styling for Fashion Editorial, Video Journalism, Media Ethics and Shorthand. There is also a module called Journalism Practice which involves a two-week placement.  

In her video, Caitlyn explains a little about her favourite modules and the practical skills and experiences you can gain while studying. She loved Style Icons and Subcultures, which covers how cultures and subcultures evolve and the history of fashion over the decades. She also talks about the importance of the Media Law module, which is a challenging area, but vital for any journalist to be knowledgeable about. In a module called Newsroom, Caitlyn and her classmates would research ideas for social media posts, newspapers and magazines, looking for local news stories they could write about. They would then get the opportunity to pitch ideas to the editor and go out to find sources, before writing up their piece and submitting it for their strict deadline! Caitlyn says this is one of the best experiences she’s had at university because it gave her a feel for a real-world newsroom environment. 

As for the lecturers, Caitlyn explains that she can’t praise her programme leader, Carole Watson, highly enough. We spoke to Caitlyn recently to find out what exactly makes Carole such a good programme leader. She said, "Carole has always pushed me to the best of my abilities to ensure I get top marks in my modules, and she has always picked me back up if I have not done my best in an exam. I cannot praise her enough for all the opportunities she has provided us with, such as taking us on trips to York to see the Vivienne Westwood exhibition, modelling for the Bridges shopping centre and all the incredible guest speakers from the fashion industry she sets up for us. She is very supportive and is always there for a chat; I can’t thank her enough for everything she has done for me."

University life

Thanks to pop culture references like ‘The Devil Wears Prada’, fashion can sometimes be perceived as competitive and unfriendly, but Caitlyn says this just isn’t true. The BA (Hons) Fashion Journalism course at Sunderland takes a small cohort each year, which makes for a tight-knit community of like-minded people, and Caitlyn says the students on her course are some of the nicest people she’s ever met. 

And when it comes to work experience, if you don’t have any, don’t worry! Caitlyn tells us she didn’t have any work experience before university. She explains that help and support is available from your programme leader if you’re keen to pursue a placement, plus you can do your own research and reach out to industry experts to see what work experience opportunities they offer. She also makes the great point that just because she’s studying fashion journalism, it doesn’t necessarily mean she has to go into journalism – a course like this offers so many different skills that it can open the door to many exciting careers. Career opportunities can include: writing for magazines, supplements and newspapers, covering the fashion shows and interviewing designers; working as a stylist for celebrities or fashion houses; working in public relations or as a social media expert.

Final advice and tips

To round off, Caitlyn shares her top tips for getting the most out of your university experience:

  • Get involved in extracurricular opportunities – join clubs and societies that interest you and make the most of course-related activities
  • Don’t be afraid to make friends with different people throughout your studies, and swap friendship groups if you need to
  • You’re at university for at least three years, so when applying for courses, make sure you choose one you really want to study, at a university you like
  • Don’t worry if you don’t get the results you needed on results day. Caitlyn came to Sunderland through Clearing and she loves where she is now – everything happens for a reason!
  • Finally, be yourself and work hard!

To find out more about Caitlyn and Fashion Journalism at Sunderland, check out her student story or chat to her on The Access Platform. 

Published: 17 February 2021